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Wunderman Thompson’s Health4Equity Brings Together Poets, Artists and Influencers to Empower Black Women to Receive Equitable Maternal Healthcare
Black mothers’ pain is often mismanaged, and their birth plans and preferences are dismissed. This new zine and influencer campaign strives to inspire change in the way clinicians provide care.
Wunderman Thompson’s Health4Equity Center of Excellence launched a campaign centered around their new digital zine RxUCKUS, which aims to disrupt the status quo for health equity and advocate for Black maternal health. The zine features poetry and art by Black creatives and has been shared widely across social media by influential Black doulas and OBs, equipping Black women with vital resources to receive equitable maternal healthcare.
Black mothers—irrespective of socioeconomic status—are more than 3x more likely to die in childbirth than white mothers. This inequity is due in large part to health deterioration, caused by chronic stressors like racism and classism, called "weathering," a term first coined by Dr. Arline Geronimus in 1992. From unrealistic expectations of what Black women can endure to having their pain mismanaged and their birth plans and preferences dismissed, Black mothers often do not receive the clinical support their lives depend on.
Health equity advocates, educators, and professionals are helping raise awareness and educate Black mothers on action steps they can take for their healthcare by sharing the RxUCKUS zine. Influencers such as Latham Thomas (@GlowMaven), Cheryl Neufville (@heyy.cheryl), Sabia Wade (@sabiawade, The Black Doula), and Bravo’s Married to Medicine star Dr. Jackie Walters (@therealdrjackie) have taken to their Instagram platforms, encouraging their followers to lean into informative, action-oriented and thought-provoking facts about the reality of being a Black mother in America, alongside a poem or piece of artwork from the zine that resonated with them. XONecole, a Black-owned and operated media platform that serves as a resource and guide to health issues that disproportionately plague Black communities, has also shared the RxUCKUS content in partnership with Health4Equity and provided a prompt stemming from a conversation with Dr. Geronimus to open a dialogue on weathering with their doctors and how it fits in their birthing plan.
The zine itself is a result of a collaboration with The Good Listening Project (TGLP). TGLP’s “Listener Poets” hold non-judgmental space for people to process and make sense of their experiences. Afterwards, participants receive custom poems that reflect what they discussed. Five poems are featured in this edition of RxUCKUS, authored by Listener Poets Yvette Perry and Jenny Hegland, which draw attention to the lived experiences of four Black mothers and one doula.
“A common theme expressed during my listening sessions with the women who we engaged for this project was the experience of not being adequately listened to by healthcare providers,” says Yvette Perry, Listener Poet, The Good Listening Project. “My main goal with the poems that I wrote following my conversations with these women was to make sure their voices were loud and clear. Through poetic expression, these singular experiences have the power to stand in for the experiences of far too many Black mothers.”
These poems were illustrated by a global roster of talented Black artists and subsequently animated. Academic illustrations, by Ni-ka Ford of Enlight Visuals, are also featured throughout the zine and provide a deeper understanding of the roles that chronic stress and ‘weathering’ play in the Black maternal mortality crisis. By providing insights and resources that act as antidotes to ‘weathering,’ RxUCKUS also provides paths to restoration and support for Black mothers and mothers-to-be.
“This project has provided a poetic path to healing for Black mothers,” says Dania Alarcon, Chief Medical Officer of Wunderman Thompson Health and Lead of Health4Equity, “while simultaneously elevating awareness of weathering as a little understood, key root cause of negative outcomes experienced in the Black maternal health journey. The work and collaboration are as beautiful as the healing and positive clinical change it’s meant to inspire to impact the Black maternal health crisis.”